You have an important custom software project. Maybe it is a new mobile application. Or perhaps it's a web application for customers and employees. You have done the hard part. Researched potential vendors. Received input from others who have done this before. Solicited proposals and chosen your new software development partner. You are ready to go. And you want the project to start strongly and give you confidence that you made the right decision.
So what does a "good kickoff" feel like? At AndPlus, we have kicked off hundreds of custom software projects over the years. In our experience, there are 3 important things needed to have confidence in your project right from the start.
A Common Understanding Of The Development Process - Agile Training
Project owners usually have a strong grasp of product knowledge and good business insight. But the software development process may be new to them. Or their new development team does things differently from their last group (or internal team). It is important to review the development process and methods that will be used. The goal is to create a common language and expectations. Everything should be collaborative and transparent. There shouldn't be any "black boxes" where there is uncertainty as to what is happening and why (and when!).
At AndPlus, we use the Agile software development process. We solve this problem by providing Agile training to each of our clients as part of the project kickoff. These training sessions can be as small as a few people for 30 minutes or a group of 100 or more for 2-3 hours. We discuss each step in the process. What happens, how long it takes, the standard meeting agendas, and what "success looks like." We also demonstrate how we use our online Agile project management tool, Jira. In fact, we provide each of our clients access to their project within the tool so they can monitor progress and interact with the development team. All to improve flexibility, transparency, and collaboration. Does your development team give you full access to their project management system? If not, ask them why.
Create A Checklist Of Critical Things Needed To Start Development - Project Readiness
Have you ever started fixing something around the house and realized you don't have the right part? You hop in the car, drive all the way to Home Depot, only to find out it isn't in stock. Well if you have, you'll understand the importance of project readiness.
During project readiness, the Agile Scrum Master creates a checklist of things needed to start development. The list can contain items for both the development team and project owner. During the project kickoff meeting, the list is reviewed and discussed with ownership assigned for specific follow up tasks. Items covered include Agile project roles (see our blog post), the best communication process, schedule and logistics, tools required, and what key assets are needed (for example: login information, code base access, copy and brand assets, and other operational information). The project readiness process ensures there will not be any delays, everyone is on the same page, and there won't be any mid-project trips to Home Depot.
Project Scope Is Understood And Prioritized - Product Backlog
The third important element needed for a successful project kickoff is to make sure the project owner and development team have a clear understanding of the scope and priorities. Prior to the kickoff meeting, our team at AndPlus inputs every scope component from the proposal into our Jira project management tool as an Agile user story. This creates the initial product backlog in an easy to view format. We then review this with the project owner during the kickoff. The team checks the backlog for completeness and prioritizes the user stories so the most valuable software features are created early in the project. This also provides a flexible opportunity to add or delete scope to the project based on user feedback.
If you did these 3 things at the start of your next custom software project, would you feel you had a successful project kickoff? Please let us know your thoughts.
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